The government of Qatar has taken recent steps to open more doors for entrepreneurs who are looking to start new businesses across the country. Perhaps the most significant driver of this trend is the Qatar National Vision 2030, which has set a new precedent for the nation’s economic growth.
As part of this vision, Qatar is looking to bolster several important industries and aspects of civil society, including education, medicine, and social development. Another crucial element of this plan is fostering innovation and business creation. Qatar has been able to work toward this goal thanks to the help of several government-run entities that are supporting the growth of the startup sector. Read on to explore a few of the organizations that are broadening opportunities for entrepreneurship in Qatar.
Social Development Center (SDC)
For more than two decades, SDC has served as a network of support for Qatar’s community of startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Established through the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, this grassroots organization focuses on empowering budding businesspeople across the nation. SDC runs a wide array of business development-oriented projects that focus on everything from providing professional training to individuals to fostering the growth of micro companies. In addition, the organization focuses much of its work on helping local youth cultivate the skills they need to become effective social entrepreneurs.
In November 2016, SDC announced its intention to allot more attention to its youth-centric programs through the debut of a new identity, “Nama.” Along with this new brand name, the organization also launched a new strategy, which is focused on supporting and investing in the business ideas of young people more than ever before.
Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC)
In 2014, SDC partnered with Qatar Development Bank (QDB) to initiate QBIC, a multi-focus business incubator that is helping move Qatar closer to its goal of developing the local entrepreneurial sector. At the time of its establishment, the center welcomed 15 startup projects into its LeanStartup incubation program. With a budget of 100 million riyal (approximately $27 million), QBIC provided investments, office facilities, and other business development services at its 20,000-square-meter space in Doha.
QBIC has since become the largest entity of its kind to operate in the Middle East, growing its network to more than 60 startups within its first two years alone. As of 2017, 247 professionals have graduated from the LeanStartup program. QBIC mainly works with companies in the digital and tourism sectors, but intends to expand into healthcare.
Digital Incubation Center (DIC)
A facet of Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, DIC focuses solely on fostering entrepreneurship in the realm of information and communications technology (ICT). The center primarily works with young people looking to start new businesses in this sector, assisting them through all stages of development. Whether entrepreneurs are just starting out with an idea for an ICT product or they are looking for business support, DIC can assist. Another important feature of the center is its incubation program, which helps startups grow by supplying them with important business strategy assistance, training, and office facilities.
Those looking to incubate their startups through DIC may select between one of two support tracks. The first, known as Launchpad, takes place over the course of six months and guides entrepreneurs through the process of taking ideas and developing them into products that they can take to market. Entrepreneurs can also join the Startup track, which lasts for two years. During this incubation program, new startups and those with already viable products gain all the tools they need to guide their companies to success.
Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA)
As part of the government of Qatar, QTA upholds the mission of funding and managing a sustainable travel industry that will support a flourishing economy. Though it may seem an unlikely source of entrepreneurial support, the organization recently created a new avenue through which local startup owners could expand their businesses. During the 2017 Shop Qatar Festival, QTA invited more than 40 local retail businesses and artisans to run pop-up shops. The organization carefully selected its participating startups by analyzing their performance metrics with the QBIC and QDB.
Over the course of the three-week event, the entrepreneurs rotated between 30 different pop-up stores through which they sold their wares to Qatari locals and visitors from across the globe. QTA’s Shop Qatar festival thus enabled entrepreneurs to reach out to new markets while subsequently serving as inspiration for more business owners to join the country’s retail industry.
Over two decades ago, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser created a vision to advance economic and social progress in Qatar. This came to fruition in the form of the non-profit Qatar Foundation, which has since run crucial programs in the core areas of community development, science, and education. Together, these efforts are encouraging excellence and fostering innovation in all areas, including entrepreneurship.
Most recently, the Qatar Foundation took an extra step toward expanding the startup ecosystem in both Qatar and across the Middle East. By forming a partnership with accelerator and venture capital provider 500 Startups, the foundation has looked toward a future in which both entities will provide the funding and counsel that entrepreneurs need to create flourishing businesses. As part of this initiative, the Qatar Foundation will also establish a new startup incubation facility at the Qatar Science & Technology Park.